Monday, 12 August 2013
Sunday wanderings . . .
I have to say that one of the things that I miss the most from our time that we spent living down in Kent is the sound of the local village church bells ringing each morning. They were always ringing as I made my way up to the big house to work . . . a familiar sound, no matter the day of the year, pealing up the hill and surrounding me with their love. That's about the only way I can explain it . . . there was something very familial and loving about their sound, comforting, a reminder to my heart that God is in His place and all is right with my world.
Its interesting how something as simple as a sound, or a melody, or a smell, or a taste can instantly transport us to another time and place . . . or make us feel happy, or sad, or angry, or alone, or content . . . I wonder if it has anything to do with sound, smell, taste and touch being four of the five senses??? If we are blessed we have all four of those, and sight as well!
I am blessed in this way . . . and grateful for my blessings. These are things which are so easily taken for granted aren't they. The person who has always been able to hear . . . doesn't even think about how lucky they are to be able to do that, likewise the person who has always been able to see, or walk, or run, or . . . a myriad of things. These things we all take for granted and think nothing about. But . . . the person who has never been fortunate enough to have one or more of these blessings . . . they would give everything possibly to be able to have what they have never had.
I am always amazed at the strength and courage of people such as Helen Keller who was both deaf and blind and because of those two deficiencies dumb for the most part. What a wonderful thing it was that Anne Sullivan came into her life and taught her how to communicate with the outside world, enabling her to eventually even earn a Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College. I read her autobiography when I was a girl, and also saw the film entitled "The Miracle Worker," and was greatly inspired by her example.
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
Another girl who greatly inspired and influenced me when I was growing up was Anne Frank. I think I may have been eleven or twelve when I read her diary. I had grown up during a time of peace. We lived in the shadow of the cold war, but there were no battles being fought other than the ones in our heads. Here was a girl who had lived decades before, during a time when she was condemned simply for being a Jew . . . an accident of birth, and nothing she could change really. Forced to go into hiding from the Nazis with her family during the second World War, she was around the same age, when she began writing her diary, that I was when I read this diary of hers. And not much older than myself when she died of Typhus in a concentration camp just one year prior to the end of the war. Again, I had also seen the dramatization of her life in a film about her. Her courage and ability to find joy, despite this life she was having to live was amazing to me, and still is.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Another woman whose example greatly influenced me was Florence Nightingale. Like most girls of my era, I went through a period in my growing up years when I fancied being a nurse. I even had a play nurses bag that I used to cure the sick when I was really small. As a very young girl, the only opportunities that were open to girls really were nursing, teaching, secretarial. There were not many women in other important roles, except for Queen Elizabeth (and she had inherited hers) and Margaret Thatcher (who ended up not being very popular). Florence Nightingale was a celebrated British social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night. I read her autobiography as well as a girl, and was greatly inspired.
“I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.”
Another woman whose example inspired me was Madame Marie Curie. Here was a woman who shared my same name and who had done great things. Marie Curie was a French-Polish physicist and chemist, famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris. Her research in the field has been paramount in the use of radiation for the treatment of cancerous tumours, given us the ability to harness nuclear power and date archaeological objects
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
Another role model for me was Eleanor Roosevelt. Born into a wealthy and well connected American family, Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest serving first lady of the United States, her husband having served four terms as President. President Harry S Truman later called her the first lady of the world, due to her many human rights achievements. Here was a woman who had an unhappy childhood, suffering the deaths of both parents and one of her brothers at a young age. At 15, she attended Allenwood Academy in London, and was deeply influenced by feminist headmistress Marie Souvestre. Returning to the US, she married her cousin Franklin Roosevelt in 1905. The Roosevelts' marriage was complicated from the beginning by Franklin's controlling mother, Sara and after discovering Franklin's affair with Lucy Mercer in 1918, Eleanor resolved to seek fulfilment in a public life of her own. She persuaded Franklin to stay in politics following his partial paralysis from polio, and began to give speeches and campaign in his place. After Franklin's election as Governor of New York, Eleanor regularly made public appearances on his behalf. She had also shaped the role of First Lady during her tenure and beyond. Controversial because of her outspokenness, particularly her stands on racial issues, she was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. Here was a woman who was not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and damn the consequences.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Another woman who had a great influence on me during my growing up/shaping me years was June Evelyn Bronson Cleaver . . . yes, she was not a real person, but a character in a television series, but I think she embodied the ideal woman of her time.
June's birthplace and the scenes of her early years cannot be determined with exactness but most signs in the show point to Mayfield and its environs. June attended boarding school as a youngster and was captain of the school's basketball team. At one point in her young years, she was a student of Cornelia Rayburn, the principal of Beaver's school. It is implied that June had an affluent upper middle class upbringing (contrasted with Ward's middle class childhood) which may in part account for June's fastidious and fashionable clothing tastes throughout the series. June mentions that she was taught a formal curtsey for the event that she married a diplomat and Aunt Martha frequently proudly refers to their common Bronson lineage. Ward also mentions the Bronson clan's concerns about Ward providing for June in a manner she is accustomed to at their wedding. June mentions her father occasionally. Apparently, he was a practical man, for, according to June, he discouraged her as a child from buying an opal ring in a jewelry store window and urged her instead to spend her money on a pair of galoshes. She probably disappointed her family somewhat when she married Ward Cleaver, the son of a local farmer, although University educated, like herself.
June was dedicated to her family; her interests outside the home were social events like weddings or school events like meetings and plays. She had ladylike pastimes: needlepoint, cake decorating, and arranging tea roses. She read glossy but high-toned, tasteful women's magazines. When the boys arrived home from school, June was usually found in the kitchen chopping salad vegetables, basting a roast, or icing a cake. Her kitchen was immaculate, and I still dream of having a kitchen (and home) like hers. And like most young girls during that era, she was a woman I aspired to be like.
"Wally, you never use not and hardly together. Either you're not doing anything, or you're hardly doing anything."
I wonder who the young girls of today have to look up to as role models?
“Why did you envy? Why you go against me? When I got trendy, why you aint commend me? Why when I needed it, why you couldn't lend me? Why you was secretive frontin like you friendly?”
The mind boggles.
Baking in The English Kitchen today . . . A Simple Butter Cake. Oh boy, this is one of my favourites! Moist and rich, and . . . simple!
Have a wonderful Sunday! (Sorry my brain wandered from church bells to influential women today . . . but that's how I roll. I never know where my thoughts are going to end up when I sit down at the computer and begin to write!)